Edinburgh Exodus: Sky-high property prices and rents force more people out of Capital

Rents have risen by 46.3 per cent since the start of 2010, Scottish Government figures show

Friday, 22nd November 2019, 6:00 am
Updated Friday, 22nd November 2019, 9:56 am

Sky-rocketing rent prices and rising house prices are forcing Edinburgh residents to move to surrounding areas in search of affordable housing.

New figures from the Scottish Government released this week show the average rent in the Lothians has risen by 46.3 per cent between 2010 and 2019 for two-bedroom properties.

The rise is almost double the pace of rents across Scotland as a whole, and more than double the rate of inflation.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Rents have risen by more than 46 per cent in the last decade.

As housing costs begin to rise, more and more people are forced to leave Edinburgh for further afield in order to find affordable housing, with experts saying such moves can lead to mental and physical health problems for those most vulnerable.

In August the Evening News reported that there are now more than 7,000 full-property Airbnbs in Edinburgh, and in October released a report in collaboration with the Bureau of Investigative Journalism only 12 homes in the Lothian area could be afforded by people on housing benefit.

More affordable homes needed

Edinburgh City Council have come under fire for not doing enough to reduce the pressure on the housing market which Aberdein Considine reported saw £860 million in property sales in the third quarter of 2019.

Calls for more genuinely affordable and social housing have been made with Shelter Scotland calling for continued expansion of social housing as a priority.

Kate Campbell, housing convener at the council, said the authority will build 20,000 affordable homes over the next 10 years but the Conservative’s group leader Iain Whyte called on the council to do more to encourage private development.

Graeme Brown, director of Shelter Scotland, said: “This is putting pressure on household budgets and far too many people are living a precarious existence just making ends meet with the prospect of homelessness looming over them.

“The answer to this is to keep expanding social housing in Scotland. We’ve just seen the first increase in the number of social homes since 1980 thanks to the end of right to buy and the largest building programme since the 1970s.

“Worryingly we face a cliff-edge where this will stop in 2021 if we don’t get an urgent commitment from Scottish Government that we will keep building.”

Accessibility issues also reduce choice

That lack of affordable housing becomes even more serious if you require additional needs or particular accessibility requirements.

Olivia Lindsay, head of casework services at Housing Options Scotland who help disabled people, eldery people and veterans find housing, said the lack of appropriate homes can lead to mental health problems.

She added more of her clients are being forced to look outside of Edinburgh in order to be able to afford to rent or buy a house.

Ms Lindsay said: “If any of our clients come through to us and don’t have a high priority housing need, the chances of them being housed is really slim so the advice is to look in the surrounding areas. Buying in Edinburgh is really tough.

“Prices are definitely increasing, East Lothian is probably where prices are increasing the most. The closer you are to Edinburgh, pricing gets higher, the further away you are the cheaper it will get.

“There are a lot of people wishing to return to Edinburgh because of issues of loneliness and isolation but there doesn’t seem any scope to move back to those areas.

“If someone is unsuitably housed then that unsuitable house will not be improving their health.

“If you are moving out partly because you can’t afford it and you are moving into another unaffordable house it is pretty well documented that it can lead to a reduction in mental and physical wellbeing.”

More than 20,000 homes pledged, but is it happening fast enough?

Cllr Campbell said more than 2,000 affordable homes are currently being built in Edinburgh. She said: “We know Edinburgh has a very pressured housing market, that’s why we’ve committed to building 20,000 affordable homes over 10 years.

“We will continue to work with Government through the city region deal to secure more grant funding and greater certainty to deliver our strong pipeline.

“It is estimated that there is a loss of around 10% of Private Rented homes to short term lets in recent years, which is leading to greater demand and increasing rents.

“We are seeking additional regulatory powers to tackle the issues arising from the STL and have been actively involved in the recent Scottish Government consultation on new regulatory powers to tackle this issue.”

However, Cllr Whyte accused the SNP of missing their own targets on affordable homes and said treating the Capital’s housing problems would only be solved by approaching them with the whole city area, including the Lothians.

He said: “The only way around it is to find ways to build more houses. The council, pushing this forward, has been very slow. They are behind with their own targets on social and affordable housing but the planning system is also struggling to function.

“If we are going to make things work in the long term then we have to work as a city region. Many people will see the Lothian bus network area as the travel to work area. If we can improve public transport and build more houses by giving us the infrastructure to allow that to pay, it would make it much easier.

“We need much more strategic thinking to find the places where we can build the houses. If you have a shortage of space and a high demand there is not an easy way around it.

“This administration are afraid of making it clear to the public that they do want to build in places that might cause public anger such as building on the green belt.

“We need a much bigger and wider debate with the public about what is most important as to whether it is protecting a green field next door to them or provide housing for families. We need a proper and open conversation about this.”

'We didn't even look in Edinburgh - we knew we couldn't afford it'

More and more families are being forced to move outside of Edinburgh in order to find the perfect home,

Marlous Lang-Peterse and her family moved to Linlithgow in 2015 after seven years living in Edinburgh due to the cost of finding the family home they needed.

The prices were so high, Ms Lang-Peterse and her husband did not even look at Edinburgh as an option when they decided to leave their flat on Easter Road.

The need to leave the city came when the mum of three discovered she was to have twins.

The decision to buy a three bedroom house in Linlithgow quickly made.

She said: “We had our first child and we wanted to move to a house with a garden and there was no way we could afford that in Edinburgh.

“For the longest time in Easter Road there were students living below us.

“While it was a nice flat, it was not suitable for a young family.

Ms Lang-Peterse and her family ended up buying a three bedroom house with gardens for just over £161,000

She said: “We didn’t look at anything comparable in Edinburgh becayse we would not have been even close to being able to afford it.”

“There was just nowhere because of the property prices being what they are.

“That is why we looked at somewhere commutable.”

It’s a decision Ms Lang-Peterse doesn’t regret.

“I really enjoyed my time in Edinburgh,” she said.

“But we needed to be somewhere that was suitable to have a family.

“It is annoying that you have to pay £20 to get to Edinburgh before you leave Linlithgow but I would not want to raise my family in the city if I could not provide them with the level of space that I can now.”